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Apple says it has been ordered to remove WhatsApp from the Chinese App Store

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Apple said it on Friday removed Meta-owned apps WhatsApp and Threads from its app store in China under government orders, potentially escalating the technology war between the United States and China.

The House of Representatives was preparing to vote this weekend on a bill that would force the Chinese internet company ByteDance to sell or have its popular video app TikTok banned in the United States. US lawmakers have said TikTok poses a security risk because of its ties to China.

Apple said China’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration, has ordered the removal of WhatsApp and Threads from its app store due to national security concerns. Apple said it complied.

“We are required to follow the laws of the countries where we operate, even if we disagree with them,” an Apple spokesperson said.

A Meta spokesperson directed requests for comment to Apple. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Apple has removed the apps.

China has long blocked American apps and tech companies, including Facebook and Instagram, which are also owned by Meta. WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular messaging services, and Threads were not widely used in China, which has an extensive system for blocking foreign apps and websites within its borders known as the Great Firewall. In China, WhatsApp is overshadowed by WeChat, the Chinese messaging app.

Still, until Friday, Chinese users could download and use WhatsApp using a virtual private network, or VPN, which is used to set up secure web connections and view banned content in China.

This is a development story. Check back for updates.

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